Spotting fake LinkedIn profiles

Nothing, NOTHING, gets to me more than someone creating a persona on LinkedIn and trying to start a conversation either on LinkedIn, or they get your email address and start a conversation on email.

The above profile Picture is a snip of my LinkedIn profile – and no that profile isn’t fake, it’s just an image of a LinkedIn profile. I didn’t want to use a fake profile with and somehow someone decides to start a law suite!

This is my most recent email and usually has the same wording:
“I read your profile on linked-in and you caught my eye, and if you don’t mind i would love to communicate, and sharing more about me with you, I am interested in communicating more this is me being honest and i hope no offense is taken, I understand the medium is a business networking medium and not a dating or social networking website and I don’t intend to use it for one. I will wait for your response soon hopefully, I will send you pictures on my next email.

I do believe everything is possible if we put our mind and heart together just like i believe that good things can be found in the least places and when we least expect. I do not just give out my personal details like email or phone numbers to people on LinkedIn or off it, but I am willing to make a compromise to communicate with you so here am I emailing you off the site because I really wanted to touch base with you.”
Don’t get duped!
LinkedIn, the powerful networking platform for business professionals, has exploded in growth over the past few years. South Africa is estimated to have over 7 Million users! However, with its rapid expansion, LinkedIn – like all other social media platforms – has experienced a growing problem with fake profiles.

Here are some ways to spot fake profiles that I have picked up over the years:

  1. Fake Photos
    All too often, fake LinkedIn profiles are accompanied by ridiculously good-looking model-quality photos. Maybe not just model looking, but real business looking gentleman for the ladies!
    Often, scammers will use the photo of a lesser-known actor or actress, or even an image of well-known public figure. Other scammers use photos of real people, but not the “person” in the profile, and sometimes create multiple fake LinkedIn profiles utilizing the same picture.
    If you’re suspicious or not sure about a photo, there’s an easy way to check its authenticity. Simply do a reverse image search using TinEye, Bing or Google’s Reverse Image Search. These search engines will show you where, if any place, the same image has been used previously online.
    To check this, click on the photo so it enlarges, right click on your mouse and click “search Google for image”. More often than not, your gut is right and there are many names associated to this profile.
    If this is the case – and any of the cases below, click on the “more” button and report the profile. Don’t just not accept them or disconnect. They are busy with scams, do your part!
  2. Incomplete Profile
    One thing that is common of fake LinkedIn accounts is the lack of any real information about the individual. If there is information, it’s often in the form of mostly generic statements that lack any specificity in the summary and experience sections. Like : Project Manager at Engineering.
    Genuine profiles of real people typically include a mixture of personal details, such as causes, volunteering, hobbies, education, recommendations, and the use of the first person when writing the ‘Summary’ or ‘Experience’ sections. Many fake profiles don’t bother to add personal information but keep their “profiles” at a bare-bones with minimum of insight.
    In addition, generic job titles can also be a tip-off. If you get a suspicious request from someone with the simple job title of “Manager,” that should trigger your Spidey senses to investigate further.
    BUT, that being said, I have had clients who have had “dodgy” looking profiles and they are real people!
  3. Limited Connections (often under 100)
    A genuine profile will have a good mix of people and profiles among its connections – so if you find a profile with either all the same or all opposite gender people with fake looking profile pictures, steer clear. I found one just like this this morning. A male profile with ONLY female connections. He had almost 200 connections! So this number is not always the “magic” number.
    Checking out mutual friends from a connection request is another helpful tool in confirming the validity of a LinkedIn profile. Some of today’s fake profiles look so real that even the smartest of social media users can be fooled.
    Fake profiles can have several hundred connections already, as well as a handful of skill endorsements. They also usually belong to several groups, and follow a couple of companies and influencers.
    With this being said, I have helped high executives who have not had a LinkedIn profile at all, so then they also look fake in the beginning. Don’t be too quick to report just because the person hasn’t been actively connecting on LinkedIn.
  4. Fake Name
    The name used will often be generic in nature, or that of a very famous person, like an actor, actress or television personality. But it could also be a John, or a Mark, or Sandy etc.
    Some more clever hackers will use the name of a more obscure actor or actress that wouldn’t be as known to most of those on LinkedIn (the below is obviously not an example of the latter)
    If in doubt, what I usually do again is Google the name and see what pictures come up or reverse search the picture to see if the correct name comes up with the picture!
  5. Poor Spelling & Grammar
    In many fake profiles, there are some clear presentation errors, such as misspellings and poor grammar.
    Often, the first name is displayed in all capital letters (my pet peeve), or all lowercase, which is not a protocol for presenting your name on a professional network. Also, odd spellings of common names, colloquial spellings of company names in the work history, or other typos in the profile should be a red flag. BUT, also not always fake. I have had clients who have their names in all CAPS or all lowercase. There are exceptions! (I do then help them to rectify this!)
  6. Suspicious Work History
    Not everybody who receives an education from a prestigious university gets a great job. But if a profile lists that type of education, yet the work history is that of someone with more of a “menial” job, it should at least make you think twice about the profile, and whether to connect with that person. If the trajectory of work experience seems odd or off, it probably is.
    Also, a growing number of fake LinkedIn profiles are related to recruiters, as that service appears to be a plausible reason to connect with someone you don’t know. Check other work experience and facets – or better yet, look for their current employer elsewhere online and see if the person with the suspect profile is, in fact, listed as working there.
    I have come across work history where they simultaneously work in different countries totally (like Nigeria, Canada, UK and South Africa – all at the same time!) They are NOT God so they are not omnipresent. Just take the time to look at the little things that don’t add up.
  7. Suspect Connection Requests
    If you get a request from Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson or someone else who isn’t likely to send you a LinkedIn request, I can assure you it’s not them, but a scammer.
    Less obvious are those who’ve figured out how to pose as authentic, boring, cubicle-office dwellers.
    According to USA Today, last fall, hackers stole and posted over three terabytes of files from a music video in a breach that began with a single phishing attack through LinkedIn. The group OurMine claimed responsibility.
    You should always spend a moment investigating before you click accept.
  8. Lack of Engagement
    Social media is designed to foster two-way conversation – so those accounts that don’t interact with others can be phoney – OR actually haven’t been taught on how to engage on LinkedIn as it can be very daunting for those who don’t know how!
    This is not always a sign of a fake profile, especially here in South Africa where LinkedIn hasn’t been seen as a tool for business!
  9. Pitches for Great Business Opportunities or Jobs
    While job hunters use LinkedIn to connect with former colleagues and potential employers, scammers also use the service to find targets. So, as a LinkedIn user, also be on the lookout for suspicious “recruiters” and job offers.
    According to the Better Business Bureau, the scam often begins when you get a LinkedIn message asking you to apply for a job. The message comes from someone who appears to be a recruiter, and their LinkedIn profile looks real. You may even have several connections in common.
    From here, the scam has a couple of variations. Sometimes, the message contains a link that appears to point to an online job application. You’re supposed to upload your resume, and may be asked to provide personal information – which can range from your address to Social Security/Social Insurance Number. Other times, you respond to the message and are “hired” for the job. Then, you’re asked to pay upfront for training and/or others expenses.
    No matter how the scam unfolds, the job never materializes – the scammer simply takes the money and/or information and disappears, and those who share any personal information run the risk of being victimized by identity theft.
    Take the time to educate your employees on how to use LinkedIn to build their personal brands, while building your company brand and everyone wins!
Articles and Activity in LinkedIn Profiles

Contact Noleen to find out how we can come in and help train up your employees to elevate your brand better!

Noleen Thompson

Some of the information supplied was from Social Media Today article.


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